3 free agents who left the Mets in their prime
By Tim Boyle
2) NY Mets let free agent Zack Wheeler walk away in his prime
An even more present tense free agent the Mets walked away from, Zack Wheeler left the team after the 2019 season to also join a rival ball club. The five-year contract worth $118 million was a lot more than what it would’ve taken to keep Murphy around. Even with a few years in between, MLB salaries didn’t go up that much.
The Phillies were willing to take a chance on Wheeler. Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen regularly made it known that acquiring Marcus Stroman at the 2019 trade deadline was in preparation for letting Wheeler go. Stroman would give them only one full quality season in 2021. It came nowhere close to matching what Wheeler did for Philadelphia.
Wheeler followed the Murphy path by finishing second in the Cy Young race in 2021. He was 14-10 with a 2.78 ERA while leading the league in complete games, shutouts, innings, and strikeouts. He has finally turned into the special pitcher the Mets thought they were getting when they traded Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for him.
In parts of five seasons in New York, we only saw flashes of what Wheeler could become. At 44-38 with a 3.77 ERA, it’s understandable why they’d walk away from him. He was only 11-8 with a 3.96 ERA in that final season in 2019. The timing just didn’t work out in the Mets’ favor or maybe the coaches at the time were unable to unlock his ace-potential.